A 40-year-old man was sentenced to death on Saturday by a court in Madhya Pradesh's Sagar district for raping a minor girl.

The accused Bhagirath Patel was convicted under section 376 (rape) and section 366 (abduction) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and went through medical tests before the sentencing took place. He has also been convicted under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

The incident took place in Rehli on 21 May, and according to prosecution officer PL Rawat, the police completed the investigation in three days and filed a charge sheet on 25 May. The verdict was delivered within 46 days of the incident.

“A total of 25 witnesses were presented before the court which delivered the verdict today (Saturday) after hearing arguments from both sides during the past three days," he added.

Patel raped the nine-year-old girl in a temple in Khamaria village. When she cried for help, her family members rushed to the spot and saw the accused fleeing.

This is the first case in which a rapist has been given death penalty after India’s cabinet approved the toughest form of punishment for raping girls below the age of 12.

The decision came after the Narendra Modi government was criticised for failing to address the issue of growing incidents of crime against women. There were reportedly 40,000 rapes in India in 2016 and 40% of those involved children.